In hopes of helping students cut back on unnecessary sugar and achieve a more balanced diet, the San Francisco Unified School District has decided to put an official ban on chocolate milk. The ban will begin with elementary schools and middle schools this fall before expanding to high schools by the spring. To help inform their decision, officials tested five local schools to see the effects of taking away chocolate milk. They found that two of the schools saw the same number of milk cartons being consumed by students, while the other three only slightly dipped.
“The kids grumbled about it for a couple of days,” said Libby Albert, executive director of the district’s Student Nutrition Services. But after that, Albert explained, most students accepted normal milk and moved on.
This would all be fine if their findings were accurate. While, nutritionally, a carton of chocolate milk does, on average, contain 35-40 calories more than a carton of regular milk. It also has 10 more grams of sugar. However, other numbers suggest these officials may not be accurate their assumption that students will just learn to make the switch to normal milk. A study from the Food & Brand Lab at Cornell found that banning chocolate milk in school cafeterias decreased milk consumption which ultimately increased the school’s waste.
So, while the School District may have noble intentions in helping kids cut calories, they are likely to find the negatives of their plan outweigh the positives. After all, Los Angeles Unified enacted a similar ban in 2011, but are bringing chocolate milk back because of decreased milk usage and increased wastage of milk.
Of course, all of this revolves around the notion that milk is necessary to a kid’s diet, which schools love because it means they don’t have to take the time to build kid’s balanced, healthy meals. Most research finds that kids don’t need milk at all, as its nutritional value is minimal compared to the amount of sugar and calories contained in each glass. But as long as kids are going to have milk at school, shouldn’t they at least have all the available options?